Can Depression Cause Hair Loss?

Can Depression Cause Hair Loss?

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Author: GIA Miami
Published: March 24, 2022

When we think about depression, we often imagine experiencing feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or a pessimistic mood. All of these mental symptoms are accurate. But did you know that the adverse effects of depression are even more pervasive?

Our minds and bodies are interconnected, and pain and physical illnesses can make us feel depressed or desperate. Likewise, depression can affect our organ systems and trigger lots of unexpected physical symptoms, including hair loss.

Related: Depression Treatment Miami

In this post, we answer the question, "can depression cause hair loss?" and explore all you need to know about depression and hair loss — beginning from the causes of hair loss, who is at risk, and what research says about depression as a triggering factor of hair health.

If you are experiencing this bothering condition, know that knowledge is power. Becoming aware of the root cause of this issue may help you find effective treatments to overcome it. 

What Causes Hair Loss?

For most of us, hair loss is a condition that gradually appears as we get older. For example, you may start to notice that more hair falls out when you take a shower or brush your hair as you age. Your hair may also become thinner and break apart easily. Likewise, your hairline might start to recede slowly, or you may begin to notice bald patches (alopecia).

Apart from age, millions of people experience hair loss. For years, the American Academy of Dermatology Association has been studying the root causes of this condition and the effectiveness of particular treatments for each case. In turn, the association has found that this uncomfortable condition can occur due to a variety of factors, including:

  • Genetics and family history
  • Cancer treatments
  • Hormone changes (i.e., hormone imbalance, childbirth)
  • Lack of vitamins or minerals (biotin, zinc, iron)
  • Lack of protein in the diet
  • Certain medications
  • Abrasive hair treatments
  • Medical conditions including sexually transmitted diseases, scalp infection, thyroid problems, and a weakened immune system
  • Chronic stress, trauma, and depression

To answer the question, "can depression cause hair loss?" let's take a moment to understand how depression may become the underlying cause.

Depression and Hair Loss

Depression is becoming one of the most widespread mental health conditions worldwide. In the United States, approximately 21 million adults are experiencing depression. In some cases, symptoms of depression can be mild, temporary, and related to an adverse event (i.e., losing a job, a relationship, or a loved one).

However, in other cases, depression can deeply settle into one's life and affect everything, including our behaviors, thoughts, emotions, relationships, health, and worldview. When this happens, we may be suffering from clinical depression.

Clinical depression can happen at any stage of our life; it can occur as a one-off episode or become persistent. Regardless of the cause, clinical depression has the power to compromise our mental and physical health. It may weaken our immune system, cause physical aches and pains, alter our sleeping and eating patterns, and prevent hair growth. Any of these conditions may keep your body in a constant state of stress or alarm.

Up to this date, researchers are still investigating the connection between depression and hair loss. However, what they do know is that the stress associated with depression may trigger losing hair in different ways.

Trichotillomania

This condition triggers the urge to pull one's hair as a coping mechanism to deal with stress, anxiety, or depression. Just like some people may engage in overeating, substance use, or other types of unhealthy coping skills, some people may pull their hair to deal with overwhelming feelings.

Trichotillomania may cause some people to develop bald spots in different areas of their head or a receding hairline.

Telogen Effluvium

Persistent, moderate, or severe forms of stress may shut down the activity of some of your bodily functions, including the growth of hair follicles. Sometimes, when the body intuits a threat or an adverse event, it hyperactivates some organs and system functions and causes others to rest.

This stress response mechanism is necessary to survival. Unfortunately, hair growth is not one of the functions required to manage stress or depressive symptoms. As a result, the body will signal hair follicles to enter into a resting phase until the perceived stressor goes away.

Unfortunately, in the case of high levels of stress or depression, the mind may trick the body into believing that the stressor is continually there. This may delay the capacity of the hair to grow again.

Alopecia Areata

This is a disease where the body's immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles, causing hair to fall out. This disease can happen to anyone, including children, teens, and adults.

Researchers have found that stressful events or depression are not a direct cause of alopecia areata. However, in some cases, people have reported that after experiencing high levels of stress or depression, they have experienced alopecia areata.

In turn, experiencing alopecia areata may contribute to people suffering from different types of mental health issues, including low mood, problems with self-confidence or self-esteem, and depression. This may happen especially in cases of severe alopecia areata, where a person has bald spots of hair loss.

Antidepressants

Certain medications may cause hair loss, though not frequently. Some of these medications can include antidepressants.

One comparative study analyzed the risk of experiencing hair loss due to antidepressant medications. The study reviewed the side effects reported by a significantly large group of people (1,025,140) who took antidepressants in the past decade in the United States.

In the list of prescribed medications, the study found that people taking medication containing the ingredient bupropion had a higher risk of experiencing hair loss than others taking antidepressants with different ingredients, such as fluoxetine and paroxetine.

Can Hair Loss From Depression Grow Back?

Watching your hair thinning or falling can understandably cause you to feel a wealth of emotions. Hair is a significant part of our self-image, so when we experience a negative physical change visible to others, it can trigger low mood, self-esteem issues, anxiety, and depression.

But we want to bring you hope by letting you know that depression and stress-related hair loss are both treatable conditions. In fact, the chances are that when you treat your depressive symptoms, you may also see improvements in your hair growth.

How Do You Deal With Hair Loss From Depression?

Hair loss due to depression or other mental health conditions is generally treatable. Most of the time, once we learn how to cope with stress and the psychological effects of depression, our hair will start to re-grow.

Hair growth can happen as quickly as a few months, as long as we seek appropriate treatment options. Here are some tips that may help you overcome this uncomfortable condition:

Seek the Opinion of a Hair Loss Specialist

First of all, it is important that you determine the cause of your hair loss. As we mentioned earlier, sometimes hair loss or thinning hair happens because of genetics or aging. If that is not the case, there are still different types of hair loss conditions.

A hair loss specialist will be able to guide you to the root cause of this common problem. But it is always important to know if you have been experiencing mental health issues lately or adverse events in your life.

Therapy

Is depression causing your hair loss? Or is your hair loss making you feel depressed? Sometimes, it is not easy to assess which condition comes first. But as long as you are experiencing depression, it may be hard for your hair to regain its vitality and strength.

Studies have proved that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be a great resource to manage symptoms of depression co-occurring with hair loss conditions. This type of therapy is also beneficial if you engage in hair-pulling.

A therapist can not only provide you emotional support during treatment, but they can help you gain alternative coping skills to manage overwhelming feelings and difficult situations.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy

For some people, clinical depression can become so pervasive or intense that it may resist regular treatment options. If this is happening to you, we want to let you know that modern-day treatments are available.

In the past decade, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy as a form of non-invasive brain stimulation for the treatment of depression. TMS is painless, effective, and does not interrupt your daily responsibilities or routine.

You Deserve A Fulfilling Life

At GIA Miami, we continuously develop treatment options for people suffering from depression and its challenging mental and physical symptoms.

We have paid attention to gathering a team of professionals and designing a facility that will promote your mental wellness and sense of peace. At GIA Miami, we want people to feel at home.

If you have been struggling with depression, please get in touch with us whenever you feel ready.

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